Transform the noise
Create meaning with sound
How Do I Enroll?

Sound Design

Explore the processes and products of digital sound and music

About Sound Design

Sounds communicate information to us in ways that are not always obvious. Chimes on our smartphones let us know when someone in our social networks have replied to us. The musical score of a video game tells us that we're about to play in a scary or funny or heartwarming scenario. Sound designers work carefully to ensure that the sounds that we hear in life and entertainment convey the information that we need.

Students in the Sound Design area will explore the processes and products of digital sound and music. They will receive basic training in key component areas: principles of computer music, hybrid instrument building, concepts in sound design. Combining this training with courses that bring together experts from many disciplines, they will create experimental music or explore new, technology-enabled, applications and markets for sound design, music creation, and performance.

How to Participate

IDeATe's Sound Design minor and courses are open to students from any major. The minor requires taking a portal course plus four courses from the collaborative and supportive course options. Students should contact the IDeATe advisor to discuss curriculum and to make a loose plan of study. 

Students may also opt to take just one or two courses to fulfill course requirements or to explore an area of interest. Pursuing a minor is not a prerequisite for taking the Sound Design courses.


The table below outlines the curriculum requirements and course options for Sound Design. For information on Sound Design courses offered this semester, please visit the Courses page

Minor - Five courses

One Portal Course:

  • For DC, CFA, TSB majors: 15-104 Introduction to Computing for Creative Practice OR 18-090 Twisted Signals: Multimedia Processing for the Arts
  • For CIT, MCS, SCS majors: 62-150 Introduction to Media Synthesis & Analysis

Four Collaborative or Supportive Courses:

  • 15-322 Introduction to Computer Music
  • 57-344 Experimental Sound Synthesis
  • 15-323 Computer Music Systems and Information Processing
  • 33-114 Physics of Musical Sound
  • 54-166 Introduction to Sound Design for Theatre
  • 54-267 Conceptual Sound Design
  • 54-509 Theatrical Sound System Design
  • 57-337 Sound Recording
  • 57-347 Electronic and Computer Music
  • 57-458 Business of Music
  • 60-352 NOISE: Toward a Critical Theory of Sound and Hearing
  • 60-439 Hybrid Instrument Building
Note: Students also have the option of taking one Collaborative or Supportive course from one of the other IDeATe areas.

Double-counting: Students may double-count up to two of the IDeATe minor courses for other requirements.


The IDeATe collaborative studios promote hands-on learning through making, critique, and iterative design. Students in these courses apply skills from both technology and arts disciplines to prototype ideas and leverage the diversity of perspectives to produce innovation in their field. Learning happens both through the instructor and through the interdisciplinary peer cohort.

Expanded Music Performance

Offered by: Music

In his 1970 manifesto Expanded Cinema, Gene Youngblood presented the idea that emerging video technology would lead to an new form of cinematic expression in which art and life are united. In this course we will explore this idea in the realm of music through the creation of new technologies that will expand the possibilities of live performance. The technologies we develop will be used in a series of public concerts by CMUs Exploded Ensemble, a group of high-caliber musicians dedicated to electro-acoustic performance of avant-garde concert music. The course will work closely with the Exploded...

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Experimental Sound Synthesis

Offered by: Music

In this course we will explore a variety of experimental approaches to music, sound design, and sonic artwork.  Topics will include: composing and mixing in multichannel sound formats, building analog smart-synthesizers, electroacoustic music performance, 3D sound recording, reactive sound environments, sonic sculpture, and beyond.  In this course students from a variety of disciplines will work together to design, prototype, and execute a series of ambitious projects.

This course is part of the new Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology (IDeATe) program at Carnegie Mellon University...

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Introduction to Computer Music

Offered by: Computer Science

Computers are used to synthesize sound, process signals, and compose music. Personal computers have replaced studios full of sound recording and processing equipment, completing a revolution that began with recording and electronics. In this course, students will learn the fundamentals of digital audio, basic sound synthesis algorithms, and techniques for digital audio effects and processing. Students will apply their knowledge in programming assignments using a very high-level programming language for sound synthesis and composition. In a final project, students will demonstrate their mastery...

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In addition to the collaborative studios, the IDeATe network also incorporates a number of existing courses from across the university into its curriculum. These courses have significant applications in the technology-arts realm and serve to enrich the student experience in IDeATe and at Carnegie Mellon.

This class will teach you the fundamentals of how to survive in the music industry
Offered by: Music
This course presents concepts and techniques for representing and manipulating discrete music information, both in real time and off line.
Offered by: Computer Science
Students explore the unique qualities of audio as a design element and the development of a design process through script analysis.
Offered by: Drama
This course surveys aspects of the field of Acoustic Ecology as an aesthetic, political, and ethical phenomenon, with special attention to its relationship with the creative and sound practices of "Soundwalking," "Deep Listening," and Soundscape Composition.
Offered by: Music
This course builds on the concepts learned in Introduction to Music Technology (57-101) and gives added knowledge in the areas of composition using digital and analog devices as well as various computer programs.
Offered by: Music
In this course we will explore this idea in the realm of music through the creation of new technologies that will expand the possibilities of live performance.
Offered by: Music
Students explore the basic principles and theories of sound design from technical, psychological and aesthetic standpoints.
Offered by: Drama
The Listening Spaces seminar seeks to understand the overwhelming impact mediating technologies have had on our social, political and personal interactions with music.
Offered by: English
A survey of Western art music from WWII to the present, with a focus on compositional techniques, influential trends, and experimental approaches.
Offered by: Music
This seminar will explore audio art in its widest sense: sound sculpture and installations, radio art, the soundtrack, just about anything audible but not conceived as music.
Offered by: Art
An introduction to the physics and psychophysics of musical sound.
Offered by:
This course centers around the recording studio in the School of Music: how the studio works, and how to record various types of music, including classical music, using the recording studio and Kresge Recital Hall, which has audio and video links to the recording studio.
Offered by: Music
This mini will introduce you to research and theory on how to create effective teams.
Offered by: English
The Exploded Ensemble is a group dedicated to the performance of music that pushes the boundaries of traditional performance and composition.
Offered by: Music
Intensive course exploring the theory, art and technology of large scale sound system design for entertainment, specifically live theater productions.
Offered by: Music


A student can choose to enroll in an IDeATe concentration or minor either in their sophomore or in their junior year. These required portal courses introduce students to the concepts and practices of knowledge areas beyond their discipline that contribute to the subject of each minor/concentration.

Arts and Humanities Students
Students wishing to enter this concentration will have the option to take either course.
Engineering / Computer Science Students
The course is an introduction to basic principles for the creation of digitally mediated content. The course is aimed towards students from science and engineering disciplines who have limited exposure to content analysis and authoring.


Faculty members from across the university collaborate to develop and instruct courses that are collaborative in nature and support diverse areas of student expertise.

Roger Dannenberg
Computer Science Department
Sound Design
Ali Momeni
School of Art
Physical Computing Sound Design
Ben Opie
School of Music
Sound Design
Sarah Pickett
School of Drama
Sound Design
Riccardo Schulz
School of Music
Sound Design
Richard Stern
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Sound Design
Jesse Stiles
School of Music
Sound Design
Thomas Sullivan
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Sound Design